today we are happy to welcome Dominik Arkuszewski, from the Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology Institute of the Adam Mickiewicz University (Poland) with this new blog for our series 'Fieldnotes and Thoughts'.
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Embodiment as healing
by Dominik Arkuszewski,
Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology Institute,
Adam Mickiewicz University (Poland)
As Thomas Csordas proposed, the body can be seen as the existential ground of culture (1997). This postulate can have a revolutionary impact on social sciences. Why? The answer lies somewhere between the lived body, embodiment paradigm and senses, particularly the senses of touch (Paterson 2007). As Andrew Strathern claimed turning embodiment in the direction of the senses can lead to the revitalization of ethnography itself (1996: 200). David Howes coined the term "sensual revolution" to elaborate a " ideological move that has turned the tables and recovered a full-bodied understanding of culture and experience" (Pink 2009: 21) Sarah Pink puts her two pennyworth in saying that “it is generally agreed that it is time to attend to the senses” (Pink 2009: 19).
We, as anthropologists, can theorize the body in terms of having/being dialectic or switch to focus on what bodies can do and become. Phenomenologists’ notion of a lived body reveals it as alive, dynamic field of sensations, not just a flesh object deferred to brains’ control. The ambiguity of human experience, where we mutually are and possess the body still remains in the spotlight. The notion of practices, which enable and coordinate the doing, can add a transformative factor to the above. This transformation can be put into healing terms and affect all the body’s dispositions.
The following text describes a research related to my MA thesis. I had spent nearly three years with the taijiquan/qigong group in Poznan, Poland. Firstly as a participant and later as a researcher. The formal orientation of the group is rather vague. In other words, many different approaches (spiritual, martial, psychological or therapeutical) can be distinguished in the course of subsequent meetings. The group was created five years ago by one man and includes 8 to 16 people depending on the season. During the classes taijiquan is presented in a fairly classical way while qigong exercises are taught using more unconventional methods, as I will elaborate below.